With Donegal having only won one All-Ireland title up their 2012 triumph, then manager Jim McGuinness was heralded as a hero in the north-west.
The very fact that his name is still frequently amongst the headlines in Ireland today despite now living some 5,000 miles away in China is testament to what he’s achieved in the game, although some may argue it’s purely down to his divisive tactics, which dominated the conversation around the evolution of Gaelic football at the time.
Despite leaving his post as Donegal boss almost three years ago, the post-mortem surrounding his departure and the impact that is now having on the Ulster county continues to this day.
With Donegal recently being dumped out of the championship following a hefty 4-17 to 0-14 loss at the hands of Galway, question marks over a return to their 2012 levels anytime soon are beginning to mount.
Writing in his Sunday World column, Pat Spillane argues that it is now time for the Tír Chonaill men to move on from McGuinness’ tactics while he also admits to never being a fan of the 44-year-old’s coaching style, to put it mildly.
“[Donegal] are clinging to a playing system, devised by Jimmy McGuinness, that is well past its sell-by date and is not suited to the players now at its disposal.
“Donegal’s unravelling also casts a long shadow over the coaching credentials of McGuinness. I never accepted he was an innovative coach – he merely took the template that was established by Mickey Harte and took it to an extreme level.”
While the current Donegal coaching staff, including McGuinness’ former assistant and current manager Rory Gallagher, would argue that they have moved on, Spillane is very clear in his thinking that they are clutching to a flawed system.
“His strength was his man-management and his ability to convince a bunch of players to put their lives on hold and become the hardest working team in the country.
“Winning the 2012 All-Ireland was an amazing achievement but the flaws in his plan became evident fairly quickly afterwards.
“It’s time Donegal tore up the McGuinness template.”
It does seem as though Donegal are now at a distinct crossroads. One way or another they need to find a new game plan to again challenge Ireland’s football heavyweights.
The team they were bettered by in the qualifiers, Galway, now go on to face Kerry in Croke Park in the first of two quarter-final clashes on Sunday, the other being Roscommon versus Mayo.
Rob Lyons, Pundit Arena
Hat tip: The Irish Independent